Record cocaine bust; 6 arrests in Kalamata
In the biggest cocaine haul ever made in Greece, police in the southern Peloponnese yesterday seized over 700 kilos of the drug and arrested six suspected smugglers. The bust, in the seaside town of Kalamata, followed a three-month surveillance operation in which Greek narcotics police, coast guard and members of the Finance Ministry’s financial crimes squad (SDOE) cooperated with the US Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA). Working on an informant’s tip-off, officers placed six suspected gang members – four Greeks, an Italian and an Albanian national – under surveillance in Athens and Thessaloniki. Three of the suspects chartered a Greek-flagged yacht named Plouton, which was kept under observation for several weeks with the help of satellite tracking. Around the beginning of July, the 16-meter yacht is believed to have rendezvoused with a cocaine-smuggling freighter off Martinique, in the West Indies. From there, the Plouton headed for Greece, after making stops in Spain, France and Italy, and moored in the harbor of Kalamata on Sunday. Police said the three people aboard the yacht – two men and a woman – came into contact with their suspected accomplices, and on Sunday afternoon started unloading the cocaine which they stashed in a Kalamata flat. Officers who had observed the whole process decided to make a move yesterday morning, as the last shipment was being taken to the flat. Police found 250 kilos of cocaine in the car, as well as three firearms and a hand grenade. A further 500 kilos of the drug was found in the house. Among the six suspects arrested is a Thessaloniki man believed to have headed the ring.